Sunday, January 31, 2010

Madison's Family Tree

This evening we had fun tracing back our lineage, making some major breakthroughs and discoveries. No, we we haven't found ourselves related to anyone famous yet. But starting with Madison as our anchor point, we've traced things back to the 1600's and over the past few days have put hundreds of names on our family tree.

I think the most fun would be the ones who lived in Sleepy Hollow, including a relative named Catherina Van Tassel, who no doubt was the same one that so charmed Brom Bones and the school master Ichabod Crane. If you're not familiar with the story, these two guys were competing for Ms. Van Tassel's hand, and things appeared likely that Ichabod would be the victor. But something strange happened one night that is talked about to this very day, especially around October.


It was the return of the Headless Horseman! On a dark and scary night, Ichabod was riding home alone - and no one in the area ever saw him after that again. At least that's what Bing Crosby told us.

In any event, it's been fun going back and seeing all the names and dates of our lineage. No, we're not related in any way to the Headless Horseman. At least, his name hasn't popped up in any of our family lines yet. But we have had a Van De Graaf or two, which is sort of exciting. Just think: we could be related to that guy who made the big ball that makes your hair stand on edge. Exciting stuff!

ANYWAY, it was a good day today - we visited with Ye-Ye and Nana, and the cousins and Aunt Shain. It was nice to get out of the house and visit, and they even served us dinner and delicious chocolate cake. Yummy!

Madison had a good time playing with Hannah, and then with an animatronic parrot that would make Disney proud. At the moment, I completely forget where they got it from. But Madison immediately had to have the thing and bring it to our house. It's in our kitchen right now, squawking. I think I need to go and get it a cuttle bone or something...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Not Very Ice

Somewhat predictably, there was no ice this morning. Nothing! I mean, a little was forming on the tops of trees this afternoon. But beyond that, it had to be somewhat embarrassing for the weather people. At one point, it was projected two to four inches of snow here in our zip code. We actually got zilch!

Today was a work day for Mommy and Daddy, who felt bad because Madison was spending a little too much time in front of the television set. We'll have to fix that tomorrow.

It was tough with there being so much to do, and the weather being so unpleasant outside. There just wasn't much for her to do. She played with her penguins again, and made a big mess in her room again (she's been doing that lately). But other than that, it simply wasn't that productive of a day. Madison did spend a great deal of time running around the house. We should set up a track! She ate a lot today too - we discovered she loves guacamole, and on top of this she had two bananas today.

Tomorrow is our final day of the series "Graceland," so we'll have to get her to pose with Elvis. Looking forward to that. Actually, our Elvis is too - he likes Madison.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Train Fairy

Here she is, our little train fairy, reading her Train Fairy Manual. You can tell she's a train fairy by her little engineer hat, which is standard wardrobe for some of the newer ones. Train fairies come in the wee hours of the morning and do all sorts of magical things, but we are prohibited from telling you any of that here, or else they might lose their magical powers. We can say, however, that most train employees know about train fairies and are very grateful indeed. Engineers in particular, are very superstitious about train fairies. Although it isn't advertised, they've set up little train fairy houses on the train engines so that the train fairies can stay and rest. Train fairies love to eat, especially sizzling rice soup and egg rolls. So if you leave some out tonight on your deck outside, don't be surprised if you're visited in the early morning by a snacking train fairy!

Today, the grandparents left after a disappointing trip up here. They could only stay for about a day, for fear the weather this evening would keep them stranded. There was a pretty vicious forecast involving ice and snow starting at 4:00, but it is 10:00 and so far it is still 37 degrees and basically wet outside. It's a cold wet, but still just wet. Maybe there'll be ice or something in the morning, but probably not. Everyone else will have all sorts of snow north of us, but once again, here we'll have probably nothing but cold and wet.

The positive to all of that is it makes for good snuggling. Tonight, the three of us watched the Barbie movie "Thumbelina." I have no idea what the original story was about, but I doubt it involved bulldozers and environmentalism. Basically, these small fairy creatures - not train fairies - were trying to stop a factory from being built, because it would tear up their home in the woods. They didn't say what the factory was going to make when it was set up. Hopefully it wasn't Barbie dolls!

Anyway, it was a close call, but the forces of good prevailed and everyone learned that we need to not build factories and use all our money to buy up huge bits of land to set aside for a nature preserve. In fact,I'm saving up for that right now.

Madison went to bed easy tonight, worn out from running Mommy around all day. Tomorrow morning, we'll find out about that ice. I'll also have to check on those egg rolls and sizzling rice - maybe the train fairies came!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Oswald the Octopus

Today started out cheery enough, but late this morning we got word that someone else had put a contract on the house we had our hopes on. This happened last night. The house has been sitting there since August.

Obviously, the listing agent was being a bit deceptive, manipulative, and according to our realtor "unethical." Madison's grandparents made the trip up here, and the listing agent knew this, but didn't bother to tell anyone until late this morning that she'd been working behind the scenes on another deal.

Oh well! We are all pretty bummed, but trying to look at the bright side of things. It's sort of like Georgians always looking for snow, but never getting it. Or Falcons fans waiting for that Superbowl win. Somehow we're always optimistic, aren't we? It zings for a day or two, but we keep that hope alive for something better. Eventually, it will snow. And the Falcons will win a Superbowl. And there just might be something better out there for us.


Like something in this neighborhood instead. Check it out! Personally, I like the Rocket Ship House above. I think the only thing that would bug me is that giant alarm clock building a block away. But the neighbors seem friendly. Just in case you don't recognize this neighborhood, it is home to Oswald the Octopus, one of Madison's latest television pleasures.

Recently, Madison has really taken to this happy little octopus. Mommy likes the television show too, so Daddy got a few episodes, and we've been watching it lately. After each episode, Madison will say, "More please!" As Mommy and the grandparents went to go deal with all that real estate stuff, Daddy and Madison cleaned house, ate Ramen noodles and watched Oswald the Octopus. Such a cheery guy - the biggest problem he ever had to deal with was chasing down a naughty robotic cat. Of course, there was that one time his plumbing had a problem and he flooded the entire city. But other than that, it's pretty quiet in his neighborhood. His friends, two twin brothers named Leo and Egbert, are Daddy's favorite characters - they're both eggs with eccentric accents.

Mommy's parents are returning to Florida tonight, going back home. The forecast for tomorrow night is ice, ice baby. It'll stick around Saturday morning, and the temperatures are in that questionable area where you just never know what is going to happen. It is for this very good reason that the grandparents are returning to the safety of Florida, after spending just one day here.

What a bummer! Wish we could go with them!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Naughty Baba!"

Madison's grandparents made the journey north this morning from Florida, and finally got here around eight or so. Madison can say "Naughty Baba," and in fact did so this morning on the phone. It took them quite a while to get here, but they arrived this evening to much rejoicing from Madison. "Naughty Baba!" Remember, he gets that name because he sneaks away some of Madison's food and starts saying, "Mine! Mine! Mine!" Madison doesn't tolerate that sort of behavior - she calls out, "Naughty Baba!"

Tomorrow, we're going back to the house we were looking at, to see it once more. Here's a photo taken in the living room, looking back towards the kitchen. Madison had a great time running around the house, and then turning and posing for another photograph. She kept saying, "Cheese!" over and over again, and loved running about.

Daddy had to work for most of the day today, but Madison spent the day helping Mommy clean up the house - and playing with her penguins. I'm telling you: that sliding penguin race toy she has is just about hypnotic. She'll spend so much time with that thing, just watching or helping those penguins along on their endless journey down the slide and back up the stairs again.

Tomorrow promises to be a big day as we take another peek, but things are moving along rather quickly: we could be moving in soon if everything works out. It is happening so fast that we're sort of stunned. Even now, I'm looking around this old house we now live in and looking at the different rooms and remembering the different things that took place. It is a really nice house we live in now, and for the past year and a half, Madison has been enjoying it too. She's gotten used to so many things here. She can tell you where things go in the pantry, or where the laundry goes or where certain items in the bathroom are. It'll be quite strange learning new rituals in the new house, and it certainly won't feel like home for a while. Here, things are tight and much smaller - but it is home. Like all things, it will take time. Madison will adjust quickly.

There's a lot of other things to adjust to as well, but I think it will be easier on Madison than actually Mommy and Daddy!

Today I measured the distance from this location here: six miles. It's really not that far from here. Tomorrow, we'll travel that six miles again and take another look.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood


This afternoon we made a special trip to a house about three or four miles from here. You could be seeing more of this location in the future, as the big news of the day is that we could be moving here. The address is 8655, which were the first four digits of our old phone number. On top of that, there is a street named "Loy" here, which was the name of the street Madison's great-grandfather lived on. Just some fun facts there.

It's a fairly large house, in a very nice community just over the Forsyth County line. One of the nicer amenities of the subdivision is a large, and well-designed swimming pool. Everyone can come over to swim now, and Madison can spend more time learning as well. There's also a nice playground, and tennis courts as well. Daddy doesn't do tennis yet, but the playground was nice. I can do slides any time!

The school nearby is much superior, and also much closer - only a few miles away. When Daddy was going to school to become a teacher, everyone wanted to have a teaching job in Forsyth County because it was one of the better school systems in the area. Madison will have the option of going to a pretty nice school system.

More news will develop as this story continues through the week, and there are things still up in the air. But I've taken several photos of Madison running around the house - she was so excited! We're sort of nervous though. Financially, it is an incredibly wise investment (more about those details later). The big thing about the cost is that this house needs some TLC. It isn't all that bad. It's just that the paint colors aren't exactly what we would do, and in some places there needs to be a bit of work fixing it up to what we'd like to do. But the structure is good and the location is at the end of a cul-de-sac deep in the subdivision, so there won't be as much traffic. The crazy bonus with this house is an RV garage - or a boat garage. It depends on what you want to put in there, really. No matter what, the place is huge. It is this ginormous extra building which is basically as big as another house!

The first time we saw the house we visited today, there were some deer in the back yard - maybe we'll set things up so we can see some more in the future. That's all based on if things work out with the house.

Madison had a good time following us around today as we took the tour. There are four bedrooms upstairs, and a large living room attached to the kitchen. There's a parlor and a dining area, and I think there were at least four bathrooms, maybe five. Can you believe I can't remember? The basement is finished, although it appears to need a little work too.


One of Daddy's favorite features is the wrap-around porch. I've always wanted one, with a rocking chair to sit upon. That just might be a good reason to head back to the Cracker Barrel!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day

Bubble wrap turns fifty years old today, and Daddy couldn't let this opportunity slip by without giving Madison another chance to burst a few bubbles. She's experienced bubble wrap from time to time, and that same smile you see to the left is always the same result. One time, Ye-Ye brought over a whole sheet of it to stomp on. Madison had the greatest time with just one long sheet of it. Pop, pop, pop! Similarly, the Chinese New Year Festival organizers last year laid out sheets and sheets of it for the kids to stomp on, in order to simulate indoor fireworks. What fun everyone had! Even the adults were enjoying a stomp along the stuff. It's always been a good stress reliever, a simple little thing that everyone enjoys. In any event, Madison had a small sampling of pops from a leftover sheet today, and it was hard for her to stop. To quote one news article Daddy read earlier, "you can't stop the pop." Interestingly, we just found out today that the inventor of bubble wrap was first thinking of using it as a new kind of wallpaper. When that idea didn't fly, it later dawned on him that his product could be used to protect objects as they were being shipped from place to place. To quote another title, "Oh, snap!"


Today was another cold day, but at least it was clear outside. With these thoughts, we did a little shopping at Goodwill for our upcoming series, "Wonderland." Mommy's goal was teapots, and she hit the mother-load! It was like someone had donated the most unique and wonderful teapots imaginable at just the right time. We even found a large pocket-watch for the White Rabbit, that goes backwards!

Daddy still has to finish writing the devotional, but this has been one fun series to prepare for. In fact, tonight we'll all get together and snuggle in bed for one more Wonderland flick, "Mickey's Adventures in Wonderland." I know Madison will enjoy that one, but just between you and I, Daddy will too.

Earlier today we read a bit with Madison, going over all the letters of the alphabet. She really has an astounding vocabulary - when asked to point certain items out in a book, she goes right to them. You name it: violin, fire engine, or camel - she knows them all. Smart girl! She even knows how to set up the television to play DVDs and such. She watches us very carefully and learns exactly what to do!

We had a little bit of fun today, but it's just about time to put in that movie now. We'll all get into our pajamas, and I suppose to celebrate the day we'll make some more POPcorn!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Going Postal


WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Postal Service unveiled its first stamp in the series entitled Madison: Pushing the Envelope. These stamps will be issued in the Summer of 2010, a new commemorative series that honors the arrival of the tiny little girl with a huge heart to the United States, lifting spirits and bringing back a sense of deep national pride.

US Postmaster General John E. Potter exclaimed, "This is a first class stamp in every sense of the word!"

Hundreds of stamp collectors and philatelists gathered for the occasion.

Moist Van Lipwig, stamp enthusiast and member of the American Philatelic Society, commented about the event, "This could be the biggest stamp since the Penny Black," largely regarded as the first stamp ever, with a picture of a young Queen Victoria on it.

The crowd waiting in anticipation gasped audibly when the new stamp's design was revealed, and shortly afterward the auditorium was filled with applause.

Her parents were on hand, and quite pleased with the ceremony. When asked about the denomination, her father announced, "Oh, we're non-denominational."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chinese New Year Spectacular

Another cold day outside, so we stayed inside again. It's like we've spent January hibernating indoors! Between getting sick and simply having nothing to do outside, it has been one of those months where you sort of feel forced to stay in the house all the time. Fortunately, Daddy finished up a big chunk of his work today finishing the sermons for the "Wonderland" series, while Mommy and Madison spent the day cleaning up the house a bit.


Tonight, we got cultural again by plugging in a DVD of NTDTV Chinese New Year Spectacular. It was a show we went to about three years ago when it came to Atlanta. We actually saw it over a year before going to China, though at the time we thought we'd be going there much sooner. After the performance, we bought a DVD of the show, which happened to be from the previous year.

In other words, the DVD we have was made the year Madison was born, in 2006.

Tonight, together we popped some popcorn and snuggled in bed again to watch the special. It was filmed in New York, and has a lot of different dances, orchestrations and performances. Madison was for the most part really paying attention to what it was she was seeing. This sort of surprised me, as there wasn't really a plot - it is just a collection of performances.

She enjoyed the dances, and the orchestra too. Actually, we all had fun with that, playing along with our imaginary instruments. Just picture Madison trying out an imaginary trombone. Then we all turned into conductors, and that's when the giggles got crazy, as our arms were swinging about wildly. Madison was cracking up!

She wagged her finger at the naughty red dragon when it came to the stage, and applauded when the audience cheered after each performance. It was a nice time together, but the show is pretty long: Madison couldn't see it all yet. At least she got to see the lion dance, and really about two hours of it. This show was almost three hours long!

In fact, Daddy and Mommy are about to finish watching the rest of it now - the Dance of the Plum Blossoms is next...

新年快乐!

Friday, January 22, 2010

King Tut

Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching, and this of course brings to mind what we did last year to celebrate. Why, it's what anyone else would do for a romantic day out: go see King Tut!


This picture here is not of us in front of King Tut, it's an early picture of Madison in front of an Egyptian set for our series "The Quest." That was seriously only two months after we met her, so that would be (scratching head here)... September of 2008! It was an Indiana Jones-type of series that was a ton of fun, especially considering there was an Indiana Jones movie that came out that year (just a month before we left for China).

Anyway, back to King Tut. Believe it or not, King Tut was one of the reasons I set up this blog. It was last July that I remembered something: I completely forgot we went to go see King Tut! It is probable that Madison doesn't remember any of it, and add to that you couldn't take any pictures at the exhibit. BUT, it would be nice to know later on.

She can now say something like, "Yeah, I saw King Tut, but I was two years old. It was on Valentine's Day."

Valentine's Day '09 was a fun day, actually. I remember getting Madison the Baby Einstein set with the pyramid (the one with Quincy holding a harp). I wrapped Mommy's Valentine's Day presents up in bandages (like a Mummy) and placed them all in the sand.

This seemed like a good idea at the time, but sand has a tendency to not go away as quickly as one would like. Anyway, it was a nice Valentine's Day gift.


As for the exhibit itself in Atlanta, it was pretty big. We brought Madison along and were grateful that we could roll her around in a stroller. For one thing, there were these alarms that went off whenever anyone got too close to an exhibit. I imagine Madison would want to touch everything!

She did very well, and never made any fuss - just like her experience with the Terracotta Soldiers. Exhibit by exhibit would go by, and those of us who got headsets heard Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones again!) tell us all about each one. Christopher Lee (Count Dooku) narrated a movie at the end, which was 3D and pretty cool.

There was a huge crowd, but we still got to see everything, from the big gold sarcophagus to the jewelry to the smaller sarcophagi that contained all the pharaoh's inner bits. I had no idea. Where on earth did these Egyptians get the idea that you had to pull out all these inner organs and put each one in an individual sarcophagus? My guess is someone who sold sarcophagi!

Anyway, it was a good day, and Madison was very good all throughout. You saw Ramses II's face - the only face from the Bible that we know what looks like today. Of course, he probably looked a bit healthier back in the day...

We went back home and plugged in the Little Einstein adventure "The Legend of the Golden Pyramid," which now that I think of it, we haven't watched in a while. This one video started Madison's huge fascination with the Little Einsteins, so we of course went on to get her more of the DVDs as the year went by. Check out Leo on the cover, in that Indiana Jones hat!

ANYWAY, as you probably figured out by now, today was another "slow news day." Daddy went to work again, and we did a little shopping together after he got home. Madison had a lot of energy - she was jumping all over us today! As you would expect though, she fell asleep while drinking her milk. She plays hard!

Tomorrow will probably be a bit more exciting because we'll all have some more time together as a family - just the three of us: Madison, Daddy ...and Mummy!
"We opened the sarcophagi." -The Nightmare Before Christmas

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Everybody Loves Ramen

Mommy has been out doing some chores, and it was dinner time. What is a Daddy to do?

With Madison, it's easy, because everybody loves Ramen - Ramen Noodles. She knows where the package is in the pantry, and knows where the pot is - so she's anxious to help out.

It's a simple recipe, one that Wolfgang Puck doesn't want you to know!

1. Boil what you think is enough water in a pot.
2. Dump package(s) noodles in boiling water.
3. Let sit on low for three minutes.
4. Dump little package of flavor in there and stir a bunch.
5. Let it cool a bit so you don't burn the roof of your mouth.
6. Serve.

Tonight the two of us sat together at the table, with music playing in the background and the lights dimmed for a romantic candlelit dinner.

...Only it was candlelit because there was a funny smell somewhere and those Yankee Candles sure do help out!

Actually, the funny smell is our latest mercy project - a poor cat we affectionately call "Kitty." It's a really nice cat and has taken to living around our house over the last year or two. Completely opposite of the some other cats, this one is actually nice and doesn't repulse you.

About two weeks ago, it was really banged up. One eye was closed and one leg had a big gash in it. It was so cold, as you remember, so we figured we'd let it spend some time inside the house. It has been sick on and off, and simply been sleeping in a corner and never moving. It's a young cat, and it looks like he will rebound. But we've been providing it with a safe and dry shelter until he gets back on his feet. Madison knows he is hurting - she says, "boo boo leg." She's so sweet, and gives the cat her space.

Any moment now, Mommy will be home with some groceries, so I'd best be ready to carry them in. But before I go, here's a REAL Ramen Noodle recipe I just looked up...

Salmon Ramen with Fresh Vegetables

Outstanding taste and ease of preparation are what make this recipe one of our favorites.

Open 2 packages of Oriental Flavor Top Ramen and remove flavor packets. Heat butter in skillet and add the chopped onion. Saute onion 2 minutes. Add milk, cream cheese and 1 flavor packet. Cook and stir until mixture is smooth.

DO NOT BOIL. Add carrots, zucchini and salmon and simmer for 5 minutes. At the same time, cook the noodles with the seasoning from the remaining flavor packet for 3 minutes. Drain liquid. Add the ramen noodles to the salmon and vegetable mixture. Toss gently and serve immediately. Now that's a winning taste!

Ingredients:
  • 2 packages Oriental Flavor Top Ramen
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup carrots, julienned
  • 1 cup zucchini, julienned
  • 2 cans (6.5 oz each) salmon, drained and broken into chunks

Serves 4


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cinderella Gets Smart

When Daddy got home today, Madison greeted him in her Cinderella dress and shoes. Such a nice way to come home for dinner! She walked Daddy over through the kitchen, but somehow lost her shoe!

Oh no! Whether it was intentional or not, our little Cinderella lost her glass slipper. What calamity! That's why one of the king's men just had to visit and try on this slipper on Madison's foot. Would it fit, and would everyone rejoice that this was in fact the one who lost her slipper? Nervously, the king's trusty advisor got down on his knees - and the lovely Madison extended her foot with confidence. Of course it was her shoe! She was the princess we've been looking for! Huzzah!

Immediately, there was a spectacular celebration, as everyone in the kingdom knew our real princess had been discovered. The kitchen staff and attendants erupted with cheers and joyful chorus, as word spread throughout the land about the beautiful princess! As Daddy began to hum, "So This is Love," Madison extended her hand for a first dance. Ah! What's this? A chance to dance with a princess could not be turned down, so I danced with Cinderella a special dance that only happens once upon a dream. We spun around the ballroom as the music played, and everyone marveled at how graceful and elegant our little princess carried herself.

But just then the phone rang! Uh-oh. It must have been an emergency, because it was Madison's shoe phone!

She picked up her shoe and placed it to her ear: oh, no! Just what she thought - it was a call from secret agent FAIRY GODMOTHER. It seems that KAOS was up to no good once more, with an evil scheme to destroy all the pumpkins in the land so that there would be no more magical coaches.
Quickly, Madison sprang to action faster than you can say Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo. No one messes with this little princess!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Poseidon Bus


Madison is shown here, reenacting the Poseidon Adventure - only with a small plastic school bus. Evidently a tsunami rolled the bus over and upside down, and the passengers' only hope of survival was to climb through the inner workings of the bus, all these Little People trying to reach the underbelly so they can be rescued. No word on what happened to the miniature Shelly Winters. I think she's still floating in the bathtub.

Madison had an active day with Mommy and Daddy, wrestling and jumping on them from time to time. She spent the day at the house, as Daddy was off to work and Mommy was working at home mostly. Mommy was still a bit under the weather, but she is getting better, as evidenced by this masterpiece here below:

Mommy finished this Mad Hatter's hat today, made up of poster board and cardboard underneath, wiring, lace, fabric, ostrich feathers, pins and buttons (and of course a burned edge piece of paper that says 10/6). She's working on the rest of the costume now, dying the pants and making the stripes too. As she does that, I'm writing this blog - and we're both listening to the end parts of "Through the Looking Glass." We're following the White King to see the Lion and the Unicorn fighting. "Through the Looking Glass" is a truly insane book. You'd have to be mad to get it. Fortunately, we are.

MADISON'S BOOK CLUB

Today Madison spent some time reading with Daddy early in the morning, and we went through several books, including that favorite early book of hers, "Mirror Me."

One book we picked up not long ago is a classic: Harry the Dirty Dog. This is one that Daddy and Mommy like too. Madison enjoys the illustrations and the story, which everyone with a child probably already knows. This poor doggy gets so dirty that no one knows it is really Harry!

Madison has gotten pretty dirty from time to time. You should see her after eating spaghetti. Even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be an adventure. But as dirty as she makes herself, it never gets as bad as poor Harry. It's never that dirty.

Madison fell asleep tonight in Daddy's arms. She had an active day, and an early morning. While drinking her milk, she drifted off to sleep and rested there in Daddy's arms a few minutes while Daddy looked on. Without any fuss, I slipped her into the crib and tucked her in. Such a peaceful face.

Tonight, Mommy and Daddy will get to bed early too, after finishing Alice's next adventure. At the moment, the White Knight has fallen off his horse again. He's stuck, and sitting there upside down. Somewhat like the Poseidon Bus...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Church Night

We've been having a mini-revival at the church, which is unique in that there is no children's services for kids, first grade and up. This gives the volunteers and workers in that ministry an opportunity to attend church, something we do a couple times a year.

Fortunately, there's childcare at the church for Madison. She was pretty nervous about childcare to begin with - I don't blame her! But tonight when Daddy dropped her off for daycare, she just ran off and into the room!

"Come back here and give Daddy a kiss!"

Madison turned around and ran to Daddy to give him a kiss on the cheek, and then ran off again! She enjoys playing with her friends and doing activities like the one she did tonight. Here she is to the right, showing off her craft just before bedtime. Doesn't she have the greatest smiles? This one is her "cheese" smile, where she knows a camera is being pointed at her.

In any event, she genuinely likes the childcare at the church. They've got these one-way windows where you can peek in, but they can't see you. Occasionally, Daddy will sneak over and take a peek to see how she's doing. She's usually in good spirits, running around and completely holding her own.

Madison you can tell is feeling better. Mommy was feeling somewhat run down today, so it was just Daddy and Madison at church tonight (while Mommy watched the service on a webcast).

Mommy will get a chance to go again and see the guest speaker this Wednesday, as he announced this evening that he'd be returning then to speak again. Meanwhile, Daddy will return to working with the children downstairs. Hundreds of them to watch over, and the "king's business takes haste."

Of course, in this case, "the king" would be Elvis, as we're still in the middle of our Graceland series. It has been one of my favorites, and the guy we've had with us doing the Elvis impersonation has been wonderful. He's going to do a pose with Madison soon - she really likes him. We just haven't dressed up Madison for it yet. But the two have hit it off pretty well. It's good to know we're teaching Madison the finer things in life, Elvis in particular. Here's our guy:

You can see there's a lot of energy in the place. About forty of the dancers rush down to the stage and wave their handkerchiefs, hoping that he'll wipe his forehead with them. He points at certain ones, and they scream and faint. It's really funny, actually. The older volunteers are laughing at it all, and the younger kids are starting to really get into it. Of course, you're probably wondering "Why Elvis?"

Why not? Seriously, there are a lot of fun things we've done so far with the Elvis theme - and a lot more to go. Just to give you an example, here's what I wrote for the first page of the Elvis devotional:

JAILHOUSE ROCK

A night spent in prison might be something to be down about. In the book of Acts, Paul and Silas were thrown into jail for spreading the gospel, but they didn’t act like sad sacks sitting on a block of stone, way over in a corner weeping all alone.

Instead, they threw a party in the county jail. You should’ve heard those knocked out jailbirds sing! Paul and Silas knew that this was no time to get the blues – no, this was time to do the Jailhouse Rock!

They praised God, singing hymns and praying. In fact, everybody in the whole cellblock was listening to the jailhouse rock!

Talk about a rocking tune: the entire prison started shaking until the foundation of that place came loose and the doors flew open. Everyone was free!

But it might not have happened without that first note of praise. Take a note or two from Paul and Silas: even when things look their worst, remember to praise the God who can deliver you from any situation. Even if He doesn’t start working immediately, it’s good to know that God is aware of what’s going on and has the situation under control.

So don’t you be no square! If you can’t find a partner, use a wooden chair! Just dance and sing praises to God. And just like Paul and Silas, dance the Jailhouse Rock!


Like I said, we'll get a good photo of Madison with the king before this month is out. Until then, I'm out of here - I think I'm going to go get me a jelly doughnut. Thank you very much.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Feeling Better

Mommy and Madison stayed home from church this morning, just to recover a bit. It was another cold and wet day, though the temperature is warming up some. Both are feeling better, but still needed a little rest. There was a service this evening that we all went to, and Madison was happy to get out of the house and go play with her friends at the church.

We just got another e-mail newsletter from Great Wall, the adoption organization we went through to get Madison. They had a challenging year last year with the adoption process slow down. I haven't posted this here before, but it's something to think about: the adoption wait time has gotten so slow that if we had waited just two months longer to send in our dossier, we'd just now be going to China (a year and a half later!).

All those poor people waiting and waiting! We first sent our dossier in and were thinking it'd be around six months, as it had been for all those adopting previous to us. For years, people had been adopting from China without that much of a wait time.

Maybe that's why slowed down so much. So many people wanting to adopt at the same time, and some other situations worked together to drag out that waiting time for us to about three years. For the people who sent in their dossiers only two months after us...over four years!

There are many things we're thankful for in life. So much to be grateful for. But one of the biggest is that we already have Madison with us, and we've spent the last year and a half with her having the time of our lives!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Kung Fu Panda

Last night was indeed a great popcorn night, as we snuggled together and watched Kai-Lan's Big Trip to China. We all enjoyed it, especially Madison, who gets so excited about movie night. You just say the word "movie," and she's going into the pantry to grab the popcorn bags!

The plot is pretty simple: Kai-Lan and her friends met a baby panda bear and decided to get her some nice gifts around town. Kai-Lan's a nice kid, but she's got nothing on Madison sometimes. For example, when Daddy got home from work, it was time to eat. Mommy had cooked up something nice as always, but Madison was preparing something for Daddy as well.


Dinner was great. You've got to love those little plastic pastries, and having an entire plastic tomato in your glass really does the trick. Of course, the best part is seeing your beautiful daughter in an apron and oven mitts carefully present you with your plastic dinner, put together with so much love and effort. Bon appetit!

Tonight's dinner was a little different. After a long day at work, we decided to make ourselves a veggie pizza. Madison knows how to say that word "pizza" really well now, and was instantly putting that apron on again in order to help prepare it. One problem though:


After spreading the tomato sauce over the surface, she just couldn't help herself: she had to lick the spoon! Busted!

After Mommy cooked up the pizza, Madison had three slices! It was that good. It was a pretty long day, and in fact it was a long night last night too. Everyone was up at all hours: Mommy is still a little under the weather, but thankfully getting better. Madison was a little congested too, and waking up a few times over the course of the night. We were very tired in the morning, but try telling that to an energetic three-year old! She wanted to play, and play hard!


Tonight after dinner, we got into our pajamas and snuck into bed once more for a movie. Tonight's feature was "Kung Fu Panda." You can see Master Tigress above, pretty happy because the Year of the Tiger is about to begin.

Poor Madison! She was so tired, she didn't even make it through half of the movie. Daddy had her milk ready, which she drank while watching...but she didn't even finish her milk. We carried her into her nursery after that and wished our little darling a good night. We finished the movie on our own.

"Kung Fu Panda" is the movie that I'll always associate with our journey to China. I'm fairly certain it was the last movie in the theater that we saw before going to China, and how appropriate that the whole thing takes place in China. The Beijing Olympics were coming soon, and everyone was thinking about China worldwide. I remember being over there in Beijing, just before the Olympics started, and seeing posters for "Kung Fu Panda." In fact, we saw all sorts of movie merchandise at the panda section of the Beijing Zoo.

The music always takes me back, back to the flight soaring through the clouds and leaving so much behind on our journey to a new life. The music always makes me smile, and takes away any heaviness. I used it when putting together a short movie some time ago, a short slide show of our adventure. Click here if you'd like to hear it again: Road to China.

Tonight, Zena and I listened through the credits, just to hear that music. "Panda Po," the short piece of music that will always remind us of Madison.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Finger Puppets


This morning, Madison was playing with her finger puppet friends shown above. Santa is to the left, followed by Daisy next, then Flora and Juan Pierre.

The flowers were nice and friendly, each one greeting Madison's finger puppet with a kiss (her name is Blossom). One at a time, her finger puppet would kiss each of Daddy's, starting with Santa and working to the right.

But each time it'd be: "kiss, kiss, kiss, phhhhht!" Apparently Juan Pierre didn't want to be kissed.

Madison loved it though, and for that reason alone, we did it over and over again and tried not to laugh too hard (we didn't want to wake up Mommy).

Mommy has been under the weather today, but still taking care of business at home with Madison. Tonight, Daddy will bring home a few more movies - Kai-Lan's Great Trip to China, and Kung Fu Panda (we've apparently lost our last copy). It'll be another great popcorn movie night, and a good chance to snuggle and get to sleep early.

We'll be sure to bring the finger puppets so they can watch too. Yes, even Juan Pierre.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rampage


There used to be an old video game called Rampage, where three players could simultaneously work on making a huge mess out of a city block. Debris and fleeing people were everywhere, and nothing could stop these little monsters.

We were just a few minutes away from Madison in her room, and we saw Rampage all over again. It was such a spectacular sight, I just had to post it here.


Look at this room - we're talking minutes here! Our little monster was rampaging through her room, leaving debris everywhere.

It was somewhat of an "off" day for Madison - we suspect she wasn't feeling all that well. Mommy just said moments ago that she isn't feeling well either, so there's a good deal of support for this theory. Fortunately, Daddy is doing all right for the time being.

Take a look at this calendar to your right. It now hangs on the playroom wall, an early Chinese New Year gift from Nana. The panda bears are nice: Madison has a huge collection of panda bears that you'll see here on this blog one day. Mommy and Daddy have been collecting panda bears here and there - not every one we see, but on occasion we'll see something neat that we'll pick up. Madison even has a panda bear umbrella that we purchased at the Beijing Zoo. That was the year "Kung Fu Panda" came out, so we were seeing a lot of our friend the panda bear. Both the panda bear and the ladybug are our mascots of the adoption journey and as a result, Madison has a fairly substantial collection of both.

Here's a photo of Mommy and Daddy just days before meeting Madison, taken in front of the pandas at the Beijing Zoo.

There were dozens of panda bears there, but the zoo officials wouldn't let us take any home with us. That's why we have the umbrella, which Madison enjoys carrying around. It's a tiny panda bear umbrella that she hoists above her head when it is raining, and it completes her ensemble just perfectly.

It didn't rain a bit today, but it did get warmer. We did some shopping at fabric stores and such, and came home early after our last stop at Goodwill. It was just one of those days where everyone needed to get home. Madison was a little moody, despite eating and a nap in the car, so we figured an early night might be best.

Hopefully, she'll be a little better tomorrow. Still hoping Mommy will be too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Madison's Painting

Madison has taken up the habit now of calling out in the morning, and then slipping into bed with us for the last hour or so. We're all awake anyway, so I guess it's just good snuggle time. She isn't full of energy or anything - in fact, she's a slow riser too.

Today we had another huge breakfast from Mommy, complete with fruit galore. Madison is in her banana phase again - this comes and goes. Sometimes she'll adore a food like macaroni and cheese, or bananas or oranges. And then suddenly she's not interested in that anymore. She's in her banana period now.

We brought out the paints, a cute little Kai-Lan booklet she got for Christmas. As you can see here, she's coloring in the sun a nice red color - and the rest is a little more abstract.


At least she's staying in between the lines. She enjoyed dipping the paint brush in the paints, and using the water dish to wash the brush off each time. Daddy took some art classes in college, and I can say I'm pretty pleased with her style.

Note the vertical stripe down the center of Kai-Lan's face above. It's somewhat reminiscent of Henri Matisse's painting, known as La Raie Verte (or "The Green Line"). Madison is clearly influenced by this modernistic style as she lays down each color in dramatic sweeps. It's my guess that Matisse got started as a three-year old, using a small children's water color booklet just like Madison's.

Honestly, I've always wondered why this woman has a green stripe on her head. Is she a Vulcan? I know that light plays unusual tricks on the eyes, and the guy was painting what he saw in an impressionistic, modernistic, fauvistic sort of way. But seriously, it looks like she has a big spot of mold on her face. Or maybe they got into a fight with the guacamole!

Anyway, Madison had fun today painting.

We haven't made the guacamole yet, but Zena has the ingredients for it...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Curious Madison

Today we were at it again in the morning - Madison crawled into bed with us and slept another hour on Daddy's chest. It took a while for all of us to start stirring this morning - there are some mornings where it just takes longer to get up, I guess!

Mommy spent much of the day recovering, and Daddy spent much of the day at work, so it was what we in the business like to call "a slow news day" for Madison.

Sadly, it doesn't sound like a slow news day elsewhere in the world.

This evening, to help Mommy out, Ye-Ye and Nana volunteered to take Madison over to their house for some fun, which turned out to be a great idea. Daddy went over to their house a little later in the evening, and got sucked in: there they all were, eating popcorn and watching Curious George on the television set. In the middle of the living room was constructed a new house for Kai-Lan out of those same megablocks, and even Asaph was in on the action. Everyone was having a great time.

We stayed until the end of the movie, and then wished everyone a good night. Outside, the stars shine brilliantly, though the air is still quite cold. Tomorrow promises to warm up some for us, which will be good. Everyone has stayed inside this past week, with the temperature being so low. We're starting to go crazy!

At work today, Daddy printed up a few prewriting worksheets for Madison. They look like this:


The idea is to get her drawing a straight line, by tracing the lines across on the worksheet. Some worksheets are horizontal like this one, while others are vertical. Others zig-zag or curve, but all of them get her in the habit of controlling a pencil or pen so that she can go on to tackle things like letters, numbers and shapes. We'll be practicing this a lot more this week, and balancing that with a little more time on the computer as well.

She's a really bright kid, but I suppose I'm sort of biased!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Kai-Lan's Pad

Madison got up again early today - calling out "Mama!" I snuck into the nursery and saw her standing there in the crib, ready to come out. I think the temperature is a little low in the room, waking her up early because she has a tendency to roll out from underneath her blankets. Frequently, Mommy and Daddy will check on her in order to make sure she's covered up properly.

I picked her up out of the crib, and quietly brought her into our room, laying her on my chest - underneath the covers in our bed. There, she fell asleep once more. The three of us slept in a bit, but that's what our Mondays are like. It is somewhat of a day of recovery, really.

For Mommy, it was a little more than that though. She wasn't feeling too well today. Daddy did some outside chores, while Mommy and Madison stayed inside all day again. The weather is warming up again: today it reached over forty degrees!

When Daddy got home, he played with the Ni-Hao Kai Lan megablock set. It is like legos, but with larger and easier pieces. We spread the pieces out over the kitchen floor while Mommy rested in bed - and then we got to work again with our blocks. Today's project was building a pad for Kai-Lan. We didn't want anything ordinary though - we did this multilevel project that had a lot of greenery involved. All of Kai-Lan's friends had come over to play around too, some down in the dragon boats riding around on the kitchen floor.


This morning, Madison and Daddy played house with her new mansion too. There's even a little garden outside with a small watering can. I was using the Daddy action figure, and making sure the garden looked okay outside of this house. But she kept watering the action figure Daddy, which caused him to run away in panic! This caused a lot of giggles.

Actually, there were a lot of giggles today. We had a lot of playtime, and time spent reading as well.

MADISON'S BOOK CLUB
"Bringing in the New Year" is simple, which is perfect. The pictures are great, and Madison enjoys looking at them and identifying the objects on each page. As you turn each page, of course, there's a new thing to learn about the Chinese New Year. It's nothing complicated - it's all about traditions and things that families do for Chinese New Year. The back has a more detailed explanation, but most of the book is a good experience for Madison. When it's reading time, we've got this one in our circulation now and she keeps reaching for it first. When we actually go to a Chinese New Year celebration, it'll be great to have her already familiar with some of the traditions and things done, too. Anyway, this is an educational book - and an enjoyable read for Madison.

It was a rather uneventful day, but that's okay. Sometimes you need to stay at home and rest, especially in Mommy's case. Hopefully, she'll be doing a little better tomorrow.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fashion

Madison has been enjoying her click-start computer as of late, and her skills are growing. She's calling out the letters of the alphabet as she sees them, and the Disney Princesses are helping out in her education now. One cartridge she got for Christmas features the Little Mermaid, and even Cinderella. Here she is below helping Cinderella make a dress.


This program is a bit different from the online Princess dress maker we did a few days ago. In this one you choose the colors, and even drag and sew different objects onto the dress itself: ribbons, bows, flowers, and beads in a necklace. Madison liked dragging a ribbon on the dress so much that she started dragging more ribbons. And more ribbons. Soon the dress was swarming in ribbons. This was very entertaining to Madison, although I imagine Cinderella was not telling the truth when she came back and said how thankful she was for the help!

Daddy got her to try again though, and as you can see below, this time she started pasting bows all over the place as well.


Yes, I know it isn't a dress you would wear around the square at Gainesville. Or even Atlanta. Maybe Five Points though.

Okay, so perhaps I'm being a little too judgmental. Yes, after a moment of thought, just maybe we're raising a fashion design genius. After all, what she's designed above is pretty tame when compared with what you can see going down the fashion walkway these days:


Anyway, after spending some time as a fashion designer, we got our things together and went to our friends' house, the Canadas. They had invited us over for dinner, and that's something you don't want to miss. They have a young son named Smith, who is slightly older than Madison - and the two just hit it off every time. Smith is very considerate of Madison, and the two have a ball and make all of us laugh.

Before heading over, Madison would say "Smith House" in her own special way. She was excited! It was a very nice evening together, just sitting around and talking as Madison and Smith ran back and forth with musical instruments, or played catch.

We stayed rather late, and so Madison once again got to bed a little later than normal. On top of this, she got up really early this morning, calling out "dad-da" at around 6:45. I bolted right up, thinking something might be wrong. But in fact, she was just plain awake.

Yikes! Hope that trend doesn't continue!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Anything but Congee

Another chilly day - and another one to spend indoors! Mommy made us oatmeal this morning, and I can't say enough how perfect that was. It had raisins and brown sugar, and boy was it yummy. Madison loved the raisins!

This is the sort of weather that calls for oatmeal - doesn't it? It also calls for Cream of Wheat, and even good old fashioned Southern grits! But no congee. No, I think I'll pass on congee. What exactly is congee, you ask?

You're looking at it. This was Madison's diet for about a year in the orphanage. Doesn't it look just tasty? Go ahead, you can be honest.

Daddy tried some when we were in China and didn't think the most of it. I guess it is an acquired taste. According to my recent studies, "To make congee, white rice is boiled in many times its weight of water for a long time until the rice breaks down and becomes a fairly viscous white porridge. Congees made in other regions may use different types of rice with different quantities of water, thus resulting in a thicker or more viscous product."

Basically, it's this white mush. We had many opportunities to sample some congee when we were at various restaurants in China, but it only took one taste test for Daddy to squirm, and then feel really sorry for Madison. Think about it: she ate this stuff for a year! Of course, she didn't know any better. She didn't know that Mommy was a world away, just waiting for someone to make oatmeal for. But as Madison waited herself, each day she'd eat this "viscous product." I'd call it a vicious product. Yuk!

But I imagine people feel that way about children in the South. They probably think, "could you imagine having to eat grits all the time?"

Anyway, breakfast this morning was simple, but perfect! We traveled to the church afterwards to do a little work, and then made a massive trip to the grocery store. We didn't spot any congee, but we did fill that cart up! Madison had a great time identifying the fruits and vegetables, and their colors. Orange pepper! Yellow Banana! Green... what exactly is that thing? Oh, it's an avocado. Mommy picked up a few, because sometime soon we're going to have guacamole. That's one of those words that is just fun to say. Go ahead. Try it: guacamole!

Madison does this thing at the cashier, where she simply has to help out, taking the stuff from the grocery cart and moving it to the conveyor belt. She reaches behind her, and into the cart, and starts complaining if she can't help. Sometimes you literally have to reach in and hand her something, only to watch her hand it back to you seconds later so you can put it by the register!

Anyway, we got home, and Mommy got dinner ready for us. We could tell Madison was tired. It was an early night tonight as Mommy fed her milk, and soon she was sleeping in her arms.

I'm sure she was dreaming of anything but congee.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Monkey King

The snow stayed on the ground today, but not in a friendly way. It was cold, a bitter and unhappy sort of cold. The surface of the snow crunched as you walked upon it, a frigid hard surface. Basically, it was the kind of day where you fled to someplace indoors as fast as you could. Which, oddly enough, is what we did.

The roads had a bit of ice on them this morning, so Daddy went in to work a little later than usual. Mommy cooked up a nice hot breakfast, and made us all fruit cups which were delicious. Mommy cooks up the greatest breakfasts! She'll make french toast one morning, and then English muffins with egg and ham inside the next. Today we had fried potato slices, with peppers and onions mixed in. Breakfast is always a big and wonderful part of the day. Mommy never lets Daddy go out the door unless he's eaten a whole lot of it! Madison eats too, of course. Today she ate all her fruit cup, and was asking Daddy for his pear slices. Today she said "pear," and I think she's catching on that this is one fruit not to miss out on. Up until now, it's been all apples, bananas and oranges.

First things first though, Mommy called Ba-Ba up, because Madison's grandfather had a birthday today! Mommy handed the phone over to Madison so she could sing "Happy Birthday," which now has more syllables than it used to. Anytime she sings it though, it's well-received. It was great that she got to sing it - he had just gotten in the house from a cancelled tennis game. It's even cold in Florida these days!

It was also Elvis' birthday today. From what I understand, the King was spotted at a grocery store in Tulsa - at least that's what the papers say. I couldn't imagine waiting outside at Graceland this morning. It was cold, cold, cold! Seriously, it's eighteen degrees here right now!

This would be a great reason why Mommy and Madison spent all day inside again - who could blame them? Madison was learning a little more on her click-start computer, using the Disney Princess cartridge we gave her earlier for Christmas. She's really getting good with the mouse, and with some of the keys too. One game had her fitting pieces of a dress together, and Madison would expertly click and drag each piece to the right destination with not a second thought. The puzzle would be complete in less than a minute!


Tonight, we continued our cultural adventure and watched "Big Bird in China" together in bed. Madison laughed a lot at the Monkey King. He'd keep appearing, and then disappearing - teasing Big Bird and his large pet dog. Madison loved it - she likes the Monkey King. Actually, Daddy and Mommy do too. This mischievous Chinese legend is always wearing a smile and always entertaining. He seems to always be in a good mood, and never loses a fight - which is always a plus!

Here's a picture I took in Beijing of the Monkey King. The very first night we arrived in China, Ye-Ye, Nana, Mommy and I went to go see the Peking Opera. Most of that day was spent in bed, recovering from a 29-hour flying experience the day before (extended because of storms over Beijing). Add to that the fact that Beijing is exactly twelve hours time difference, and we found ourselves with some serious jet lag.

It was for that reason that we did not schedule anything in the morning - we waited until the evening so that we could go together to see the Peking Opera. In fact, it was a birthday present for Ye-Ye, who is a big fan of all sorts of operas. Yet imagine getting to see bits and pieces of an original one in China. Mommy and Daddy were looking forward to it too, and were delighted to discover the Monkey King would play a big role in the performance.

It was a memorable night, and it was only a few days before meeting Madison for the first time. In any event, tonight we saw the Monkey King once more - and he made Madison laugh. She was really focused on the movie tonight. The Chinese children singing and dancing had her full attention, and Big Bird's wanderings through familiar locations in China were entertaining for all of us.

The thing is, Daddy and Madison didn't quite make it to the end.